Shin splints

Medial tibial stress syndrome commonly termed ‘shin splints’ is a common overuse injury in individuals who engage in activities that involve repetitive impact on the legs for example running, jumping and dancing.

MTSS is related to repeated microdamage in the cortical bone of the distal tibia. Typically there is an overlying periostitis at the site of bony injury. This is an inflammation of the periosteum which is tissue that covers the outer surface of bones.

Typically someone with MTSS will experience pain along the inner and lower aspect of the shin bone, also known as the tibia. This can be accompanied by tenderness or throbbing in the same area, in particular during or after bouts of activity.

Risk factors associated with MTSS include significant increase in load or exercise volume and high impact exercise.

Management:

  • Rest and activity modification → Avoid activities that aggravate the pain. Decrease the load placed on the structure by reducing high impact, repetitive, load-bearing exercise. Give your legs time to heal!
  • Ice use → Apply ice packs to the painful area for 15-20 minutes at a time, multiple times a day as needed!
  • Pain management → Ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen), can help alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort. Follow dosage instructions and seek advice from a health professional if needed.
  • Physiotherapy → A physiotherapist can provide you with manual therapy, appropriate gentle stretching exercises as well as strengthening exercises for the muscles around your lower leg to improve support and stability. They can also address muscle imbalances and guide biomechanics to prevent re-injury.
  • Proper footwear → Ensure you are wearing appropriate supportive footwear for your foot type. Stores like Athlete’s foot can fit you for a shoe appropriate to your foot-type!
  • Training type → To maintain your fitness levels while resting from injury you can incorporate low-impact exercise such as cycling or swimming.
  • Return to sport → A gradual return to activity is important for this condition. Once pain subsides, you can slowly start introducing the activity that caused shin splints. Start with low-impact exercises and slowly increase intensity and duration to reduce the risk of re-injury. This can best be done with the help of a physiotherapist to monitor and structure your return to play!

Shin splints left untreated can lead to several potential consequences including chronic pain, stress fractures in your tibia bone, compromised performance, muscle imbalances, increased risk of recurrence and delayed recovery.

This being said, recovery from shin splints takes time and patience. It is important to be consistent with your treatment and listen to your body as you gradually return to activity.

Laura Campbell

Laura Campbell

Laura Campbell is a physiotherapist situated in Double Bay within Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. Laura specialises in effectively addressing musculoskeletal issues through comprehensive assessments, evidence-based diagnoses, and personalised rehabilitation plans crafted to suit each person's specific needs and objectives.

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